I’ve been following the increasingly acrimonious Ron Paul-related blogspat between David Neiwert and Glenn Greenwald with great interest. Not particularly concerned with the substance of the dispute, though I will admit to being sympathetic with Neiwert’s position. With that said, as the battle lines continue to be drawn I believe there are broader implications at play.
From what I’ve read, Greenwald has always identified as a (left-leaning) libertarian, and to many libertarians RP represents the first viable presidential candidate since, well, the last time Ron Paul ran for the Executive. Still, the erroneous notion that Glenn Greenwald is a ‘liberal’ has become stone-set conventional wisdom among many on both sides of the aisle. Seems if one expresses a deep and abiding dislike for the
Cheney Bush administration one might as well be a goddamn Commie (Pat Buchanan and Gary North: once far-right anti-Semitic isolationists, now objectively Maoist–just add 9/11.)
So, one shouldn’t be surprised to see Greenwald side with Paul in this particular dispute. Neiwert, a journalist who specializes in covering the USian far right, is an ardent proponent of Federal hate crime legislation. Greenwald, a former constitutional law attorney, is a genuine free speech absolutist (according to Wikipedia, white supremacist Matthew Hale was one of his more famous clients). Any affiliation Greenwald has with the USian ‘left-blogosphere’/netroots (read: partisan Democracts, though I wouldn’t place Neiwert in this category, either) should be considered a shotgun wedding of (in)convenience, much like that of Jim Henley or Arthur Silber, than indicative of a genuine ideological convergence (indeed, as Silber has noted, a number of USian progressive luminaries have been content to repeatedly play the useful idiot role on behalf of imperial Donkeys in Congress).
It will be interesting to see if Ron Paul proves to be the catalyst that hastens a schism among anti-Bush forces who share little in common besides a respect for civil liberties and the rule of law, along with a recognition of how much (perhaps irreparable) damage to civil society the War on Terror has wrought. As the specter of lame-duck Dubya (and Deadeye Dick) continues to fade, there appear to be a number of fundamental policy barriers separating liberals and libertarians that are, in all likelihood, insurmountable. At this point, it seems more and more apparent that, contra Markos Moulitsas, the ‘Libertarian Democrat’ will ultimately prove to be the jackalope of contemporary American politics.